When I was presented with an opportunity to work as an English Teacher in Manaus, Brazil, I gladly accepted the position. I have always wanted to work abroad, which was one of my life goals. I also become interested in Brazilian culture from taking a Music of Africa and Latin America class at Wheaton College, and also from Brazilians who lived in Massachusetts.
Before I moved to Manaus, my teaching experience was limited to teaching about media in university settings, and also working with adults with developmental disabilities in a day program. In Manaus, I worked for a small private language school, and most of the adult students came to the school for English classes. I have never taught English before, and I realized if I wanted to be an effective teacher, I had to make several adjustments to how I spoke and taught English.
First, I realized that I was using too many phrasal verbs, slang, and complex words. It is important to speak to students (especially beginning students), simply and clearly. Teachers need to be very careful in what they say because it can lead to confusion and miscommunication. A teacher needs to actively listen to their students in order to gauge their speaking ability, and then speak to the level they are at. It also takes a little time for students to get used to how a new teacher speaks, so it is vital to be patient with them.
Second, I majored in English and Film Studies, but I have never taken an education class, nor was instructed in how to teach. A lot of times in academia, teaching assistants do not get a lot of oversight when they lead classes, so one of the most important lessons I learned in Manaus is be more entertaining and have fun in the classroom. Many college classes are intellectually stimulating and provocative, but they are not fun. Teachers need to make sure class objectives are met while providing an enjoyable learning experience that motivates students. It is a very delicate balance.
All in all, teaching in Manaus was one of the best experiences of my life, and sparked me to become a creative and adaptable educator.